Open Access Research article

Consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and illegal substances among physicians and medical students in Brandenburg and Saxony (Germany)

Karen Voigt1*, Sabine Twork2, Dirk Mittag1, Anne Göbel1, Roger Voigt1, Jörg Klewer3, Joachim Kugler2, Stefan R Bornstein4 and Antje Bergmann1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Medicine/Medical Clinic III, Dresden Medical School, Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, Germany

2 Department of Public Health, Dresden Medical School, Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, Germany

3 Department of Public Health and Health Care Management, University of Applied Sciences Zwickau, Zwickau, Germany

4 Medical Clinic III, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus of the Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, Germany

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:219  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-219

Published: 3 December 2009



Patients regard health care professionals as role models for leading a healthy lifestyle. Health care professionals' own behaviour and attitudes concerning healthy lifestyle have an influence in counselling patients. The aim of this study was to assess consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and illegal substances among physicians and medical students in two German states: Brandenburg and Saxony.


Socio-demographic data and individual risk behaviour was collected by an anonymous self-administered questionnaire. Physicians were approached via mail and students were recruited during tutorials or lectures.


41.6% of physicians and 60.9% of medical students responded to the questionnaire; more than 50% of the respondents in both groups were females. The majority of respondents consumed alcohol at least once per week; median daily alcohol consumption ranged from 3.88 g/d (female medical students) to 12.6 g/d (male physicians). A significantly higher percentage of men (p < 0.05) reported hazardous or harmful drinking compared to women. A quarter of all participating physicians and one third of all students indicated unhealthy alcohol-drinking behaviour. The majority of physicians (85.7%) and medical students (78.5%) were non-smokers. Both groups contained significantly more female non-smokers (p < 0.05). Use of illegal substances was considerably lower in physicians (5.1%) than medical students (33.0%). Male students indicated a significantly (p < 0.001) higher level of illegal drug-use compared to female students.


More than one third of the medical students and health care professionals showed problematic alcohol-drinking behaviour. Although the proportion of non-smokers in the investigated sample was higher than in the general population, when compared to the general population, medical students between 18-24 reported higher consumption of illegal substances.

These results indicate that methods for educating and promoting healthy lifestyle, particularly with respect to excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use and abuse of illegal drugs should be considered.